PANAMA CITY — With all the stories — and they’re accurate — about Florida being an emerging power in the sport, it’s easy to forget, sometimes, how much history the sport actually has here.
With the 2nd annual George Mulligan Invitational at Bay, a celebration of both past and present is just as much a fundamental part of the weekend as the grappling that takes place on the mat.
A tournament designed to honor the name of the man who started the first program in Bay County back in 1960 at Bay HS — he also helped start the Mosley and Rutherford programs to boot — got a solid upgrade in talent, both individually and collectively. Just one returner from last year’s slate of 14 champions was able to repeat as champion in 2021.
And, this year saw the tournament title stay in state, as Ft Walton Beach outpointed an 18-team field to win the team title with 303 points.
Gulf Breeze was second with 258.5 points, a point ahead of last year’s runnerup, Mosley, which repeated as Bay County champion by dint of having the highest tournament finish among the six county teams. Niceville (218.5 points) and South Walton (191) rounded out the top five.
Not all teams could receive individual recognition in this recap due to missing results from earlier in the season. That said, full brackets for each weight class can be found HERE.
Team scores: 1. Ft Walton Beach 303. 2. Gulf Breeze 258.5. 3. Mosley 257.5. 4. Niceville 218.5. 5. South Walton 191. 6. Rutherford 181.5. 7. Rocky Bayou Christian 144.5. 8. Florida High 126. 9. Choctaw 122.5. 10: Tate 116. 11. North Bay Haven 105.5. 12. Ft Walton Beach B 95.5. 13. Arnold 92.5. 14. Bay 85. 15. Bozeman 79. 16. Marianna 63.5. 17. Wewahitchka 42. 18. Graceville 2.
Championship matches —
106: Derrick Williams (Mosley) d. Valarie Solorio (Arnold), 9-5.
113: Calvin Williams (Mosley) p. Elijah Stillgess (Rutherford), 3:26.
120: Brandon Mallin (Ft Walton Beach) p. Ethan Pinto (Niceville), 1:05.
126: Tyler Reeve (Fla High) p. Darius Mailhot (Mosley), 1:10.
132: Colson Elliott (Gulf Breeze) md. Luke Latham (Rocky Bayou), 10-1.
138: Emil Ganim (Fla High) p. Alexander Davidson (Ft Walton Beach), 1:15.
145: Nick Hejke (Mosley) p. Garret Rudick (Gulf Breeze), 1:49.
152: Ian Daily (Gulf Breeze) p. Marquis Muniz (Ft Walton Beach), 2:00.
160: Caleb Tourgee (Ft Walton Beach) p. Nick Kendrick (Mosley), 3:06.
170: Chase Maddox (South Walton) p. Kaydon Lester (Mosley), 3:56.
182: Hunter Dupont (Gulf Breeze) p. Dalton Kovacs (Mosley), 1:16.
195: David Mercado (North Bay Haven) p. Micah Perdue (Fla High), 5:00.
220: Cedric Fairrow (Ft Walton Beach) d. David Polaski (Niceville), 9-4.
285: Robert Willis (Mosley) p. Spencer Mackenzie (Ft Walton beach), 2:56.
THE ACES OF THE DAY
Ft Walton Beach: Cedric Fairrow (220) was the tournament’s upper-weight OW, staying unbeaten at 26-0 behind a 4-0 weekend that saw falls over wrestlers from Rutherford, Choctaw and Arnold to reach the final, where he decisioned another Ace to win the bracket and OW award.
Gulf Breeze: Hunter Dupont (182) bagged three falls in 3:01 to take the championship, without going past the first period. Before his pin in the title match, Dupont won by fall in the quarters over North Bay Haven and over Niceville in the semis.
Mosley: Nick Hejke (145) had five pins in 6 minutes and 37 seconds’ worth of mat time in winning the lower-weight OW award for the tournament. Hejke had falls over North Bay Haven, Graceville, Bay and Ft Walton Beach before his pin in the championship match.
Niceville: David Polaski (220) was one of two Eagles to achieve runnerup status. Before losing by decision in the finals, Polaski had pins over wrestlers from Bay, Tate and South Walton — all in the first period — before winning by an 11-5 count over Rutherford in the semis.
South Walton: Chase Maddox (170) was 4-0 on the weekend with three pins — including in the championship round — sandwiching a 12-11 nailbiter of a semifinal win over Niceville. Maddox had earlier pins over wrestlers from Choctaw and Tate.
Rutherford: Keaton Schirmer (152) lost early in the tournament to the eventual champ, but rallied for four wins and compiled the Rams’ top team-point number in taking third. Schirmer had consi-side wins over Marianna (fall), Mosley (7-4 decision), Ft Walton Beach B (6-5 win) and a fall over South Walton for third place.
Rocky Bayou: Luke Latham (132) was the Knights’ lone finalist, with a 3-1 tournament. Before his loss in the finals, Latham had a tech fall over Ft Walton Beach B, an 11-2 major over a defending Mulligan champ in the quarters and a 7-4 win over Tate in the semis.
Florida High: Emil Ganim (138) ran the table with pins all weekend. Before his fall in the final over a fellow Ace, Ganim took pins over wrestlers from Choctaw (second round), North Bay Haven (quarters) and Ft Walton Beach (semis).
Choctaw: Eli Devoid (160) was 4-2 and placed fifth for the Indians, with losses only to the third- and fourth-place wrestlers from Gulf Breeze and Bay, respectively. Devoid had a front-side tech fall over Marianna and consi-side pins over Tate and Bozeman wrestlers before his 9-2 fifth-place win over Rutherford.
North Bay Haven: David Mercado (195) pinned his way through the tournament, with falls over Ft Walton Beach B and Rutherford in the quarters and semis, respectively, before his pin in the championship match as noted above.
Ft Walton Beach B: Alexander Davidson (138) made a run to the final, with a 3-1 weekend that saw victories over Niceville (11-2 major), Tate (first-period fall) and a 3-2 semifinal win over South Walton in getting to the championship match.
Arnold: Valarie Solorio (106) reached the finals behind a pair of bonus-point wins prior to her loss by decision in the championship, with a fall over Rutherford in the quarters and 12-2 major over Ft Walton Beach in the semis.
Bay: Corban Cherry (145) was 4-2 and one of two Tornado wrestlers with losses only to the champion and 3rd (Ft Walton Beach). Cherry had a front-side pin over Florida High, and consi-side victories over North Bay Haven and Florida High, plus a forfeit.
Bozeman: Aireous Rocha (285) was sixth in his first tournament with the Bucks, with a 2-3 weekend that saw all of his losses come against wrestlers higher on the podium (runnerup, third and fifth). Rocha had pins in the consi bracket over North Bay Haven and Tate wrestlers en route to his top-six finish.
Marianna: Marquis Patterson-Rhodes (182) was fifth, his team’s highest finish on the weekend, as he was 2-2 with losses to the third- and fourth-place wrestlers from Niceville and Rocky Bayou. Patterson-thodes had consi-side pins over Rocky Bayou and South Walton wrestlers.
Wewahitchka: Jake Parker (106) was fifth, the top finish for the Gators, after a 4-2 tournament, with both losses coming against South Walton. Parker had consi-side pins over wrestlers from North Bay Haven, Rutherford, a Gator teammate and over Rocky Bayou in the fifth-place match.
Graceville: Cayden McQueen (220) had a win by forfeit for his team’s only points, after three earlier losses by fall, for the independent program.